Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How Do You Boil A Frog?

How do you get to the point where you're wrestling a 75+ pound dog into a submissive posture while spilling water all over everything inside a dog crate? Very gradually and then all at once. It turns out that there are a whole lot more dominant behaviors in dogs than we realized, and Gretl had been showing all of them EXCEPT the ones that we knew. (Side note: zero aggressive behavior. We just don't want any dominant behavior either though because we would like to train her as a therapy dog and go visit hospitals and nursing homes with her in addition to cart training her to pull a wagon.) By the time that she did something that I recognized, we were way down the rabbit hole and needing some serious corrective training. Looking at the list pretty much shocked both of us. While logical and common sense AFTER you know, there were a lot of things that never occurred to us.

Leave the dog alone and play with me! I'm cute!
Luckily for us, knowing is the majority of the battle, and it's a simple (though not easy) fix. I've gotten a pretty amazing workout the last couple of days as we work to reestablish the pack hierarchy. The neighbors probably think that we're either insane or abusing her as we go through the process. I'm sure that it looks odd to have someone holding a dog down on the sidewalk and growling at it for 10 minutes because she refused to sit when told. I've also had to give up on cleaning during morning nap time since I've started focusing on some leash training. On the bright side, it has meant more walks for me, and hopefully by this spring we will be in really good position to start with cart training. It should make it much easier to walk to the Oktoberfest parade if we can have her do the real work of carrying all the goodies and kiddo.

Elska was initially NOT AMUSED by this turn of events. Unfortunately, following through on disciplining the dog means that we can't always immediately jump at the little girl's every whim. *gasp* It has made it a bit more challenging for us since some things with the dog really do need time and patience. Elska is trying to be a good sport about it though. It's as if she realizes that once we get this corrected, she'll be able to play with her buddy more of the time.

The swift changes definitely caught Gretl off guard. While initially resistant to relinquishing her alpha position, we have made some good progress. It's also already corrected some of the annoying things that she had been doing. After only about two weeks of effort, I'm now able to let Gretl roam around the house for a few hours at a time while I play with Elska or even work in the other room. As I type, she is quietly laying in the other room without pacing or fussing at us. It's almost like having a different (better behaved and more fun) dog in the house! Puppy parenting FTW.

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